Depression and the Holidays

I have received a number of requests for comments on how to cope with depression during the holidays.  Consider the following:

1. Remember, your childhood memories of Christmas are of a time when others were looking out for you and your happiness.  Now, you are the one who maybe looking out for the happiness of others.  You can’t recreate that happiness you remember because you are not a child any longer. No one is creating Christmas for you. You are creating it for yourself and possibly for others.  Further, your memories were “recorded” by an infant brain.  You are an adult now, with an adult brain that processes experiences very differently.  So even if you could experience now, as an adult, what you experienced at Christmas as a child, you would process it differently and remember it differently.Let your memories of Christmas be just that, memories of your childhood Christmas and have faith that you are creating j0yful memories for your children without trying to recreate your Christmas for them now.

2. Set realistic experiences of what you can do this holiday season.  My “Christmas” is cooking Christmas breakfast for my daughters and the Christmas meal at my parents. Everything else is just….frosting!  There are other things I would like to do and will try to do but if other things interfere, I’ll not to those extra things and will not feel bad about it.

3. Discuss with your family which “traditions” they want to do versus trying to do all your Christmas traditions.  You may find that the “traditions” that you thought everyone loved are NOT that important after all.

4. Think outside the box with traditions.  Think of and invite other family members to think of new traditions that they/you would want to try and replace them with older traditions you/they don’t enjoy.

5. Who’s holiday is it?  I recently worked with a couple that celebrated 4 Christmas’; theirs, her parents, his parents and his grandparents.  That is a lot of work, with three kids.  I asked them when they would stop celebrating Christmas with his grandparents?  His response, “I guess, when they die.”!  Who is in charge there?  I see some of my sibs every other holiday and I understand why.  Others might not understand this reasoning but who is in charge of MY holiday?  I would hope it would be you and your significant other.

6. Be flexible with you do your activities.  This year I am decorating my tree on a Monday evening.  Why?  That is when my girls can be over so we can do it together.  Not exactly what I’d prefer but my Christmas is cooking them breakfast on Christmas morning.  Everything else is…frosting.

7. Continue your regular routine activities of your daily life during the holidays: get good sleep, take your medicine, exercise, don’t over-eat or drink…  Letting yourself get out of your routine will only worsen your mood during an already hectic time of year.

8. Set a budget for Christmas presents and stick to it.

9. Volunteer.  Depression is very selfish.  You are only aware of yourself and your suffering.  Volunteering gets you out of yourself and in most cases, puts you in touch with the less fortunate….enabling you to re-examine your lot in life.

People get depressed during the holidays for a lot of reasonable reasons: memories of abusive holidays in the past, realization of how few friends you have, recollections of unachieved goals one set earlier in the year, memories of loved ones passed, all the work associated with holidays…shopping, cooking, decorating, pressure felt to meet everyone’s expectations, etc.

Discussing such with a trusted friend or a professional may help put these in perspective.


Happy Holidays…


More later…..